Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and people came and said to Jesus, 'Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' Jesus said to them, 'The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.'
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
This little paragraph in Chapter 2 of Mark's Gospel is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it looks at Jesus' attitude to the Law of Moses. Is he really saying his disciples should abandoned the rules and rituals they have been brought up with? I think not! In Luke's Gospel we see a Pharisee comes to Jesus saying "I fast twice in the week" (Luke 18.12). These fasts were voluntary actions taken by strict Pharisees, not legal obligations. What is remarkable is that the disciples of John the Baptist are associated with the Pharisee, for by now John was in prison. Both groups obviously feel that this new movement initiated by Jesus who claims to be sent by God, should be far more zealous in their behaviour.
But Jesus answers them with a parable that is chilling in its prophecy. Jewish leaders argued that it was more important to celebrate the joy of a wedding, than observe religious rituals during the week-long celebrations. Jesus says as the Messiah he is like a bridegroom to his people, and they should simply enjoy his presence while he is here. There would be enough time for fasting when he had left them. Even in the second chapter of Mark, we see Jesus warning his followers he will not be with them for long - his death is approaching!
Today, the notion of fasting for religious reasons has long gone, though perhaps we could consider cutting back on 'treats' for Lent, Advent, or even for one day a week, and spending more time on worship and prayer.
help us to put the things of this world
on one side on a regular basis
for both our physical and spiritual health.
Draw us closer to You
to spend more time in study and worship,
rather than pushing You to the edges of our life.
If you would like to find out more about fasting in the Bible, you might like to look up this site: